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Edwards v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 3, 2018



          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         Malik Dupree Edwards, an inmate presently confined at the Monroe County Correctional Facility, Stroudsburg Pennsylvania, filed this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The required filing fee has been paid.

         Named as sole Respondent is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The only properly named Respondent in a federal habeas corpus action is Petitioner's custodial official. See 28 U.S.C. § 2242. Accordingly, the Warden of the Monroe County Correctional Facility will be deemed the Respondent in this matter.

         Petitioner describes himself as being a pre-trial detainee. Edwards elaborates that he was arrested on state criminal charges and his criminal prosecution is ongoing in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County. See Doc. 1, ¶ 4. According to his pending petition, Edwards has been incarcerated since July 12, 2017 and is unable to post bail. Petitioner indicates that proceedings (perhaps an arraignment and preliminary hearing) were previously conducted in his criminal case on July 26, 2017 and August 26, 2017.

         Edwards alleges there was no probable cause for his arrest and he is the subject of fabricated charges. The Petitioner admits that he is presently represented by counsel and was granted a new preliminary hearing which was conducted on January 18, 2018. See Doc. 2-1, p. 3.

         The petition further maintains that Edwards filed a bail modification motion as well as a motion asserting that the Commonwealth had violated his right to a speedy trial under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600. Rule 600 provides for the dismissal of charges if a Pennsylvania state criminal defendant is not brought to trial within 365 days of the filing of the complaint. However, the period is less for pre-trial detainees such as Edwards. Both motions are presently pending before the state trial court. It is also asserted that an evidentiary hearing has been scheduled in his case for April 2, 2018.

         Edwards claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief because the Commonwealth has violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. As relief, Edwards seeks his immediate release due to the alleged violation of his constitutional rights.


         Title 28, United States Code § 2241, vests the federal district courts with jurisdiction to grant a writ of habeas corpus to persons in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). Habeas corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4 (“Preliminary Review”) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (2004). See, e.g., Mutope v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Civil No. 3:cv-07-472, 2007 WL 846559 *2 (M.D. Pa. March 19, 2007)(Kosik, J.).

         Rule 4 provides in pertinent part: “If it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” A petition may be dismissed without review of an answer “when the petition is frivolous, or obviously lacking in merit, or where. . . the necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself. . . .” Gorko v. Holt, Civil No. 4:cv-05-956, 2005 WL 1138479 *1(M.D. Pa. May 13, 2005)(McClure, J.) (quoting Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).

         Based upon Edwards' admission that he has not yet been convicted or even tried on the state criminal charges underlying this action, he is clearly a pre-trial detainee. His pending petition challenges the validity of his ongoing state criminal prosecution.

         Although “federal habeas corpus is substantially a post-conviction remedy, ” this Court still has limited jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) to issue a writ of habeas corpus. See Moore v. DeYoung, 515 F.2d 437, 441 (3d Cir. 1975). However, “jurisdiction without exhaustion should not be exercised at the pre-trial stage unless extraordinary circumstances are present.” Id. at 443; see also Kennedy v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Civil No. 17-980, 2017 WL 3396400 *2 (E.D. Pa. June 30, 2017).

         In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1981), the United States Supreme Court similarly observed that “principles of federalism and comity require district courts to abstain from enjoining pending state criminal proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances.” Port Auth. Police Benevolent Assoc., Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J. Police Dep't.,973 F.2d 169, 173 (3d Cir. 1992); see also, Duran v. Thomas, 393 Fed.Appx. 3, 4 (3d. Cir. 2010)(pre-trial habeas jurisdiction must be exercised sparingly in order to prevent interference in the state criminal process). The test for federal court abstention under Younger is whether “(1) there are ongoing state proceedings ...

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